The history of Colombia is diverse in its cultural beliefs, traditions, political decisions, social achievements, and military events. Being famous for its beautiful landscapes, myths, and emeralds, this country is also recognized as the source of criminal activities, social injustice, and violence. The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as the FARC, is a globally recognized guerrilla movement that changed millions of lives in the middle of the 20th century and continues to determine the quality of living. Even though the former leader of the FARC, Luciano Marín, signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government in 2016, he demonstrated rather aggressive attempts to return to war (Casey and Jakes). The supporters of a new, armed rebellion admit that human rights that were defined in the agreement are not followed. Many former FARC members admit that they do not receive support and protection from the government, and it is high time to join dissidents and enhance their chances for a future in the country. New intentions of the FARC leaders to renew a conflict will lead Colombia to unpredictable economic, social, and political problems and public concerns.
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The agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC leaders was one of the most remarkable events during the last decade in the country. The peace process was characterized by multiple attempts to investigate economic merits and identify the benefits for the national gross domestic product (GDP) (Serrano). These negotiations promised new, better conditions for former combatants, and people believed that something could be changed (Binningsbø et al.). However, the investigation shows that the reintegration process is proceeding slowly, and the implementation of peace do not eradicate the roots of the conflict (Flores and Vargas 583). The problem is that despite the existing attempts of the government to reduce the impact of the FARC on society, unstable social relationships still challenge people.
There is a significant research gap in FARC studies because the results obtained by scholars from peer-reviewed journals differ from those offered by newspaper authors. Therefore, it is difficult to identify and understand the true economic challenges of the reintegration program offered for the FARC former participants. A new stage of fighting is recognized in the country when two FARC leaders called for actions from the local television screens because of the governmental failure to keep its peace promises (Taylor). However, Herbolzheimer explained the successful implementation of economic models and control of armed forces as a part of negotiations (7). These findings contradict each other, depriving ordinary people of the possibility of understanding the essence of the peace agreement and its economic outcomes. It is not enough to understand the ideology of the FARC and its relation to negations and the formulation of economic steps (Palma 5; Schubiger and Zelina 948). A new wave of concerns and social disorder is poorly investigated, and more attention should be paid to the current economic challenges of the reintegration program for the FARC participants.
Purpose of the Study, Research Questions, and Hypothesis
The impact of the FARC on the citizens of Colombia remains critical and unpredictable. Regardless of the already researched history of the organization, its foundation, and missions, recent news about the possibility to begin a new war makes people think about the FARC ideals and understand what changes can be observed in the nearest future. The goal of this paper is to analyze the activities of the FARC and clarify what hazards may emerge in the economics of the country based on past and recent negotiations. In addition to information obtained from local newspapers, scholarly research will help to shed light on the current economic situation in the country, the quality of life, and the impact of the FARC. As soon as the prospects of FARC rebellions are clarified, the promotion of a new reintegration program has to be examined as a chance for former participants and ordinary citizens to be united. Financial aspects of the program remain unclear, and the task is to combine past and recent research about the FARC activities, reintegration program, and the future of Colombian reintegrated society.
There are two main research questions to be answered in this research paper:
- What are the main economic outcomes of the FARC activities on Colombian society?
- What are the outcomes of the FARC-Colombian government’s negotiation process in terms of the reintegration program?
To create a solid background of the organization under analysis, it is also recommended to answer the following sub-questions in the review:
- What are the main stages of FARC development?
- What are the economic challenges of the peace plan?
- What is the role of former FARC leaders in negotiations?
- What are the main characteristics of the reintegration program in Colombia?
Taking into consideration the current research gap, local problems, and recent news, this review focuses on the discussion of the FARC’s past and present activities and the synthesis of evidence taken from journals and newspapers. The FARC has been a past problem for the Colombian government during the last two years, but today, FARC leaders introduce a new plan of war. This project turns out to be a contribution to the FARC research by combining the results taken from different sources. The hypothesis of this paper should be based not only on evidence obtained from current newspaper and journal articles but on a personal perspective of a Colombian. It is hypothesized that modern Colombians are challenged by the economic situation in the country and the outcomes of the reintegration program for former FARC members. A new stage of fighting is an inevitable (though negative) solution to be made.
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This section aims at discussing the main points of the FARC foundation, its missions, and stages of development, as well as the contributions by leaders and the characteristics of a negotiation process. As soon as the background of the organization is defined, special attention will be paid to the economic situation in the country and the steps taken by the government and the FARC. Finally, the review of the reintegration program as a major outcome of the negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government will be developed.
The FARC was founded by Manuel Marulanda Vélez and Jacobo Arenas as a revolutionary movement among the citizens of Tolima in the middle of the 1960s. During the last several years from 1948 to 1958, a civil war between the representatives of the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, known as La Violencia, influenced the citizens of Colombia (Palma 25). Several individuals considered themselves neglected by the government because of the inabilities to meet their needs and improve the quality of life (Mapping Militant Organizations). The first squad included 48 participants who called themselves the Southern Bloc and organized the first guerrilla conference to promote land reforms for the citizens of Marquetalia (Palma 28). The next official meeting was in 1966 when the Bloc was renamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, and new strategies were introduced.
To resist governmental attacks, the FARC had to prepare the locals. There was a burning need for medical and educational services, as well as regular training. To pay for new training camps, the FARC had to think about additional resources and money, and such activities as the drug trade, kidnapping, and extortion were chosen (Jacome Jaramillo 55). The kidnapping of high officials and using them as prisoners enhanced regular financial incomes, and narco-submarines, as a means of drug transportation, helped to develop the necessary business relationships with other regions (Valenzuela 208). To predict the growth of the negative impact of the FARC around the globe, the United States took the initiative and supported the Colombian government. Plan Colombia was a military aid program that cost $9 billion but did not bring evident improvements in drug or violence control (Mapping Militant Organizations). The FARC was a strong organization with clearly defined goals and tactics, as well as the result of the absence of peaceful and democratic communication.
Contributions by Luciano Marín
In the 2000s, the FARC leaders made a significant change in their practice and quitted the idea of kidnapping people for ransom purposes. There is no enough evidence of why such changes occurred. Still, the deaths of the current leaders, Marulanda (a heart attack), Mono Jojoy (killed), and Alfonso Cano (died in a military attack) influenced the behaviors of the combatants (Palma 38). The FARC had to find out a new leader to prove the correctness of the chosen strategies. Although the steps taken by the FARC were not the best alternatives, its members believed that they did better than the current government did. Luciano Marín, also known as Iván Márquez, joined the leaders’ team at the beginning of the 2010s. He was one of those who initiated peaceful intentions and cooperation with the government. Márquez wanted “to be the voice of the excluded, of the voiceless, of those who live in misery, the voice of the honest and the good people of Colombia” (as cited in Phelan 837). At the same time, he believed that it was not necessary to break the ties with the past but wait.
Being a contributor to peacebuilding several years ago, Iván Márquez became one of the supporters to begin a new war today. According to Flores and Vargas, “formal peace agreements often end in renewed violence, continuing poverty, and weak democratic practice (582). Márquez proved this approach and demonstrated rather aggressive attitudes towards the Colombian government and the inability to follow the peace agreement. It was promised to create a new rural land legal system and promote a dialogue between the government and local communities (Presidencia de la República 7). Márquez is not satisfied with existing oppression and the impossibility for all guerilla members to use the conditions predetermined by the peace agreement and to live in justice (Casey and Jakes). New sources of income and illegal activities have to be discussed to make sure the FARC is ready to proclaim their concerns and obtain a voice again.
Negotiations with Past, Present, and Future Perspectives
Negotiations between the FARC and the Colombian government turned out to be one of the frequently discussed topics between 2016 and 2019. On the one hand, this agreement was a possibility to eradicate the illegal armed group and introduce it as a political party with reduced violence and hostility (Guzman and Holá 128). On the other hand, the concept of justice was questioned because, for example, the lack of properly determining gender-related freedoms and rights (Céspedes-Báez and Ruiz 104). Another important perspective of negotiations was the willingness of the FARC to stop kidnapping processes and recruiting children (Herbolzheimer 7). The role of the government was also defined during the talking process. For example, Spencer believed that this agreement provided the government with an opportunity “to reduce the attractiveness of participating in the illicit market” and to control the transportation of drugs and other illegal substances in the country (87). The past and present achievements of negotiations are characterized by rather strong and successful intentions – to minimize the negative effects of the FARC activities and legalize the positive outcomes of the organization.
Unfortunately, regarding recent news and discussions, the situation in Colombia is not as stable and peaceful as it has to be. Former FARC leaders do not want to support the local government and want to change the situation by raising a new war in the country (Ingber). After the peace negotiations, Márquez got the seat in Congress, but he does not find it necessary to keep it today after the arrest of one of the current FARC members and the inability to control violence against social movements (Jordan 16). Another important detail is associated with punishment norms and liberty restrictions. Despite the desire of Colombians to establish peace, there is no common solution to the crimes committed in the name of revolution organized by the FARC (Munoz). Negotiations failed to classify guerilla activities and explain which situations require serious punishment like long imprisonment and which cases may be defined as eligible for amnesty.
The end of the conflict between the FARC and the Colombian government resulted in a ceasefire and the demobilization of military powers. However, the security environment in one region did not promise similar safety in another region, and Serrano offered to investigate the national GDP points. It was expected that the peace agreement promoted the GDP increase by 1-2% due to the development of the agricultural sector and the improvement of the land quality (Serrano). Other economic improvements could include changes in foreign direct investment (FDI) and the possibility to establish new international relationships. According to the agreement reviewed by Presidencia de la República, monthly basic wage minimums will be increased (20). Oil export was illegally developed by the FARC representatives during the last several decades. The end of the conflict is a chance to control oil exports. However, in 2016, the country experienced a considerable decline in oil prices that decreased the value of the Colombian peso and drove inflation (Woody). Colombia remains an economically weak country, and the search for additional resources is the goal of the government.
As soon as the FARC was defined as a political party but not a revolutionary organization, its leaders faced new problems in the possibility to finance its members and continue training. It was not possible to dismiss all combatants without any clear opportunities and plans for the future. The FARC leaders stopped kidnapping and large drug transportations, which hit the incomes considerably (Palma 42). The humanitarian solution was achieved, but significant economic and financial challenges continue bothering the citizens of Colombia, as well as former FARC members.
To improve the social order in the country, the Colombian government, along with FARC leaders, focused on the development of multiple reintegration programs. The main idea of reintegration policies includes the participation of ex-combatants in civil communities and the minimization of recidivism of illegal activities (Kaplan and Nussio 132). There is also an agricultural training program that promoted the desired reintegration of indigenous communities (“Former FARC Guerrillas Graduate from Reintegration Program”). The education and training of local citizens play an important role in social development. Instead of following some illegal norms and decisions, people understand how they can earn a living and improve their relationships that are free from violence and other immoral behaviors. The government believes that reintegration can bring positive results and cover expenses within the next several years.
However, in many regions of Colombia, the development of reintegration programs faces certain challenges and misunderstandings. The investigations of Brown show that many people are eager to leave their reintegration camps because of false illusions being introduced by the government. The peace process has been slowed down, and commitments to reintegration have been dramatically changed. The lack of medical services, poor working opportunities, and control of ex-combatants behaviors question the necessity of the peace agreement in the country (Brown). The examples of real people investigated by Camagro show that the reintegration process is not easy in Colombia. The military captures ex-combatants and left unpleasant memories that cannot be neglected (Camagro). Even voluntary demobilization does not prevent being imprisoned for at least some period. As a result, about 93% of FARC former members suffer from psychological traumas (Camagro). Successful reintegration is a complex economic and social process, and new improvements and evaluations are required.
Achieved and Expected Outcomes
The investigation of the past of the FARC, along with its missions and ideologies, showed that its members did not care about its moral image and the correctness of the made decisions. Peace negotiations achieved good goals, and people got a chance to live their normal lives without being afraid of kidnapping or rape. However, there is a significant difference between what has been expected and what was achieved. People believed that the peace agreement and reintegration could considerably improve the quality of living and open new opportunities (Binningsbø et al.). Women’s rights in peaceful Colombia should also be slightly mentioned because it was expected to improve the situation with gender inequality either locally or globally (Céspedes-Báez and Ruiz 100). Finally, improved educational and medical resources were expected in the country because people strived to change their living from multiple perspectives.
Still, today, the achieved outcomes prove how unstable and dangerous the situation in the country is. FARC leaders do not want to support the peace agreement anymore because they do not see effective changes in the lives of the locals (Casey and Jakes). Unfortunately, the level of education of FARC leaders remains low, and the only solution to the current problem is to return to the state of war and use the methods that have already been proved as effective. The economic challenges are present in the country, and reintegration does not cover the expected financial costs. People want to have more opportunities, and the Colombian government is not ready to give guarantees and support. The FARC, in its turn, has a plan, and a new stage of fighting is one of the best options for many citizens.
To clarify if the results of negotiations and outcomes of the reintegration program for former FARC combatants cover the existing economic challenges, materials about the organization and its relationship with the government were examined. The post-positivism paradigm was applied as an epistemological position to recognize what modern scientists and writers think about the topic and what work has been done at the moment. The distinctive feature of post-positivism is the necessity to investigate reality from the point of view of science and the opinions of different people. The interaction between the offered branch of knowledge and current practice and human experiences helped to introduce a new vision of the problem and develop a new stage in the discussion. A content (thematic) analysis was the chosen research method for this paper as a possibility to use qualitative evidence of the literature review and synthesize it.
Several steps were taken to search the material online, and multiple databases were defined to gather enough scholarly sources, as well as credible newspaper articles and web pages from local organizations. A Google search of the FARC organization and its economic changes was the initial step conducted within the last month. Then, such websites as Google Scholar, Project Muse, RAND, and the Strategies Studies Institute were investigated to find out what people wrote about the FARC, its history, and its current influence on society. The following search phrases were used, “FARC”, “economic situation”, “reintegration program”, “Colombian government”, ” FARC and society”, “Colombian revolution”, and “war in Colombia”. The inclusion criteria were the material published within the last five years, FARC-related articles, and English-written sources. It was necessary to use credible local organizations and exclude blogs where personal information was offered. The initial search at different sites showed from 10 to 1000 materials. Due to duplication, publication years, and the quality, many materials were eliminated, and a final sample was 24 (N=24). The resulting material included a book, newspaper articles, journal articles, and web pages.
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The majority of the sources chosen for analysis were characterized by a neutral position to the FARC and its members. In general, all the materials were equally divided regarding the topics they covered, n=8 per each concept, including war intentions, FARC description, economic situation, and reintegration of society. In about 60% (n=14) of the sources, the authors proved an unstable situation in the country and several reasons for returning to the state of war. In eight sources (n=8, 30%), negative outcomes of the peace agreement between the FARC and the Colombian government were discovered. The importance of the FARC as a revolutionary organization was discussed in all the sources (100%). It was identified as an obligatory step for people to be heard (30%), an outcome of weak governmental decisions (20%), or a desire to find new opportunities (50%). The summary of the peace agreement offered by Presidencia de la República introduced as a standard to investigate expected and achieved outcomes among the Colombian citizens.
The goal of the literature review was to gather as many variable opinions and investigations as possible and create a solid basis for content analysis. As a result, four major topics were developed to identify the outcomes of the reintegration program for Colombians and the current economic challenges for the country and the government. The content analysis of the literature helps to introduce several common problems associated with FARC activities in the country and combine the results with a personal perspective of a Colombian.
The FARC is an integral part of Colombia, as well as its culture, traditions, and government. Although it contains several negatives attitudes, illegal activities, and immoral behaviors, its members truly believe that everything they do aims at obtaining voice and justice (Phelan 837). Many Colombians understand that the FARC has its justified vision and mission and takes steps to resist the weak government and the inabilities to create conditions that are good for living. Colombia is a country with rich natural resources and an advantageous geographical location to develop international relations. There are many outside sources to strengthen the country’s economy. However, the inability to find out a balance between the governmental intentions and the needs of the local people (represented by the FARC) resulted in dramatic economic outcomes. Social reintegration was offered as a solution for former combatants, but the price people had to pay was higher than the government could allow.
With several materials available online, this content analysis demonstrates what the current state of affairs in the country is, and what future perspectives for Colombians are. The FARC is on its phase to proclaim a new civil war or a revolution to demonstrate the government its weaknesses or mistakes (Binningsbø et al.; Casey and Jakes). There are many causes of such a decision of former FARC leaders, and one of them is the inability to follow the conditions of the peace agreement and offer enough opportunities to the local people (Ingber). Personally, as a Colombian who was directly and indirectly affected by the FARC, I understand the major aspects of the conflict between this organization and the government. Many people want to be free from the influence of the FARC, but they are unable to develop strong and wealthy relationships.
The worth of the reintegration program in the country is its ability to provide former FARC members with a new vision of peace and stability. Education and training become available to people to become sufficient in such spheres as agriculture, business, and management (“Former FARC Guerrillas Graduate from Reintegration Program”). However, in addition to the official reports and public discussions, there are still many problems and concerns that make people leave their reintegration camps and find other options (Brown). It means that the Colombian government is not able to meet the goals and promises it indicated in the peace agreement. In addition to the possibility to stop the military conflict and reduce the number of unnecessary deaths, the government has to think about new ways of development and social growth. People should recognize what they have to do for their country. Reintegration is not only education and training but an ability to cope with the consequences of wrong decisions and actions. Munoz offered to reconsider the idea of punishment for former criminals and use them for social work. Unfortunately, the government did not find the necessary consensus with the FARC.
Reintegration is an activity that requires additional finances and economic improvements in the country. The government is responsible for the identification of its goals and the implementation of interventions. The FARC has to promote peace and follow social norms to reduce illegal actions and help people reintegrate. Each party has its obligations and resources, and the government proves the lack of experience to work in the country without military conflict. Economic instability, inflation, and no new business relations provoke new problems and challenges (Woody). In addition, people suffer from emotional concerns and poor social organization (Camagro). FARC leaders react to these conditions is the only available way – a new war foundation. Still, neither the government nor the FARC thinks about ordinary people who are influenced by the conflict. Instead of thinking about reintegration programs as a way to help former FARC members, the government has to think about local people and predict economic challenges that could lead to a new stage of fighting.
In Colombia, the role of the FARC is integral because this organization does not only predetermine military actions and the number of death but also indicates what can be done in society. The peace agreement signed in 2016 proved the possibility to communicate and discuss common goals and intentions. However, the current statements of former FARC leaders about the necessity to return to war as the only way to point out the mistakes of the government are the last steps that can be offered to Colombians. Many local people have already suffered from the war founded by the FARC. Its illegal drug trade, kidnapping for ransom purposes, and murders negatively influence the moral image of the country and the quality of life of Colombians. However, the impossibility of the government to achieve positive results in reintegration programs and the lack of economic benefits question the need for reintegration for the FARC members as a social intervention. The FARC has already changed the people of Colombia, and the government must identify new ways to avoid a new military conflict, the scope of which is hard to predict.
The findings described in this paper help to recognize a reintegration program as an unnecessary tool that challenges the country’s economy and prevents the development of new approaches. The participation of the FARC in governmental decisions is questioned because current leaders plan another way to change the situation in Colombia. These findings are important because they prove the hypothesis that reintegration is one of the reasons for economic challenges in the country and a step that was poorly developed and implemented. Therefore, the evaluation of current relationships between the FARC and the Colombian government has to be continued. Inflation, low GDP, and no strong international business relations are the economic outcomes of the FARC activities in Colombian society. Such fields as politics, international affairs, economy, and social sciences must be involved in future research to analyze the reintegration program and define new methods to strengthen the economy of Colombia.
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